Sufficiently Radical

Byrnes, Timothy A.

IN BRIEF SUFFICIENTLY RADICAL, by Joseph McShane S.J., The Catholic University Press, $38.95, 319 pp. McShane's well-documented volume on the 1919 Bishops' Program of Social Reconstruction...

...My reason is simple...
...Strang's conclusion that in Greeley's fictional cosmos "women cannot be sacraments for each other" represents a monstrous distortion...
...That many of Greeley's principal women characters are abused, battered, sufferinfVictims of violence is probably true...
...Stange does not find in any of the male., chat Greeley's novels physical or emotional violence in any way comparable to that routinely undergone by his central female characters...
...tf nakedly polemical purpose, directed as it to maW?a point aid own judgment insistence on the female, male, character of line with what makes the lie church different ffom communions ia its wvcrewci|St j Mary, for example...
...Such misapprehensions deserve no response, other than to take note of the sexist logic on which they are based, this logic of either/or, "them-versus-us" thinking, characteristic of the patriarchal perspective at its most unreflectively childish level, is perhaps most obviously at work in the letter from the Marsdens...
...Tonight, however, it laughed...
...To argue that this passage indicates that for Greeley "feminism . . . ' exists to make women more rewarding to men," is a classic example of Stange's contorted logic...
...Hence, as in Ingrid Shtfefs letter, they resort to the age-old dodge of claiming quotations were taken ' 'out of context.'' Aside from noting that with regard to the specific instances cited in my article this simply is not true, I would emphasize that much more importantly "context" can cover a multitude of sins, perhaps especially when the context is theology...
...With dogmatic zeal, Stange violates the cardinal rules of responsible scholarship, disregarding evidence which might challenge her findings and dismissing scholars who disagree as "comfortable within the confines .of patriarchal categories of interpretation...
...She seems, however, blind to the profoundtheologieal implications of her ojwn insight...
...Virtually every quote or reference is torn from context, frequently twisted into exactly the opposite of what the author clearly intended...
...this makes for constructive dialogue...
...Her double death becomes a new birth...
...tacphahs, entirely' well-founded)approval that fiction has gained ?emttasi*ftBdef|, both male and female...
...Those who condemn Greeley for his (non-graphic) descriptions of actual gang rape in Lord of the Dance and Virgin and Martyr or psychic-demonic gang rape in The Angels of September should turn to Judges 19 and read the tale of the Levite from Ephraim who saves his precious skin by throwing, W» wiffef*o;fnj^ngry mob (originally bent oa ^wising" him...
...Can it be mat the' 'immense popularity of Greeley's novels among a large female leadership" a fact Ms...
...For the Editors: Besides all the erudite objection that Mary Zeiss Stange has to Andrew Greeley's books ["Little Shop of Horrors," July 17], I would like to add the.Observation that none of his female characters read real...
...INGRID H. SHAjFER 574 The author replies: That violence directed toward women is indeed a fact of life does not render this violence in any way acceptable...
...And a few pages later: "The thing is, King Solomon, that your Daughters of Jerusalem tend to have their own herds of gazelles, or, to quote your text...
...I Suspect that many of* his readers are do&g th£ same, especially those who hive taken the church seriously and have been scarred in the process...
...In Sufficiently Radical, Father McShane, details the American hierarchy's application of these teachings to the American context in 1919, nearly three-quarters of a century before the current debate over the bishops' pastoral letter on the economy got underway...
...insufficient incomes for the great majority of wage earners...
...PATRICIA A. SCHULTZ Why I read Oreeley Huntington Beach, Calif...
...13, 1987, New York Review of Books...
...A number of scholars agree that Greeley's fiction reflects a positive, psychologically sound, and above all supremely Catholic theology of the sacramentality of women and sex for those ready to break the ancient bonds of dualism with its distrust of the world...
...through the establishment of a new type of male-female relationship that transcends the matriarchal-patriarchal framework'' (The Maternal Face of God, Harper & Row, 1987...
...TIMOTHY A BYRNES 571 reaval the beauty and truth hidin$>deep within them...
...Greeley represents in his writings a point of view which, because of its large-scale acceptance, warrants serious, fair-minded, and mature scrutiny...
...In The Cardinal Sins, Ellen and Maureen are sacraments for each other...
...In addition, Greeley's women as well as men experience God as Mother...
...Sometimes the troth isn't all that pretty and we prefer to avoid it Unlikfemany typical steamy'sweet novels, Groeley's characters do dot go trailing off into the sunset happily ever after without trials and self-revelation, of some kind...
...Greeley's "sacramentality pf sexuality" flows from his conviction that human beings are most-supremely themselves (and like God) when they relate lovingly and intimately to an other, both "The Other" (God) and "the other" (a member of the opposite sex...
...The representation of Woman as a special revelatory agent of God for mtfi discerned by Stange conforms entirely to the , rnessageofthatbook, among ofeers, and is entirely consistent* as a matter of fact, with the treatment of the mate herb/My sense of Patience of a Saint is that the mate hero acts out the sentence of Jeremiah about Jeremiah.That has seduced me, and I was seduced Professor Stange reading of Greeley's fiction whils in detail sible, serves...
...Any complete treatment of the role of sexuality in human life and as symbol of ultimate reality must come to terms with both its positive "luminous" aspect and - its corresponding "shadow" (in the Jungian sense...
...With only the ideological justification that Greeley is a male, a priest, and hence, necessarily patriarchal, Stange has violated, it might almost be said raped and castrated, one of the least patriarchal of contemporary literary sensibilities...
...Stange's fixation on sexual violence in Greeley's stories seems a smoke screen to mask her discomfort with his definition of humanity as issued in two complementary "editions" male and female neither of which is complete without the other, two genders whose loving and passionate physical union is the simultaneous re-enactment of Creation, Incarnation, and Resurrection (as consummation of Jesus' marriage to his bride, the church...
...Greeley's stories abound with nonpatriarchal men...
...in Thy Brother's Wife, Nora's Madonna role includes everyone she touches...
...And, even though that friendship is offered from a male's point of view (the rarity of the gift makes it all the more welcome and all the more an "amazing grace" indeed...
...For it is the view of women and sexuality held by far too many who are oblivious to, or only mildly sympathetic with the plight of women ia our society and within the Catholic church especially, that I find "absolutely unconscionable...
...Noele's God, like Nora's, is a God Who loves her like a mother...
...Both Kevin Brennan (Cardinal Sins) and Sean Cronin (Thy Brother's Wife) overcome their early chauvinism (urged on by strong women...
...Everyone, sighed Nora, wants to be a, mother...
...I didn't because reasons why "Greeley's novels enjoy immense populaity among a largely female readership" were not given...
...tmly Beloved Son" is transformed into "God the Mother gave Her only Beloved Daughter...
...As to the more reasonable support of Greeley's novels represented by Professor Neusner's letter, he and I may agree to disagree...
...In real life, women become better human beings in spite, not because, of physical and emotional abuse...
...and unnecessarily large incomes for a small minority of privileged capitalists...
...McShane's well-documented volume on the 1919 Bishops' Program of Social Reconstruction should teach those who do not already know that application of Catholic social teaching to economic structures and decision making has a long tradition...
...Andrew Greeley's writings, and the favorable responses to them printed here, reflect a trend of thinking which not only accepts, but in some strange sense celebrates the abuse of women...
...Even Stange recognizes Greeley's motif of Woman Crucified...
...McShane argues that through their adoption of Ryan's introduction of Leo XUI's social teaching to the American progressive movement, the bishops were able to realize their persistent goal of establishing the compatibility of Catholic teaching with the best of American values...
...Stange's comment that Greeley's "sexual imagery recalls less the Song of Songs than it does The Total Woman," betrays appalling unfamiliarity...
...Stange has to be kidding...
...Would Stange also disagree with Leonardo Boff who writes: "Men will have to integrate the feminine they bear within themselves...
...Thank you, Andrew Greeley...
...Not a sardonic laugh...
...What more sexist claim can be made than that women are more saintly than men, and "mere is more God in femaleness than in maleness...
...rather it laughed at her the way she often laughed at Noreen when that teenage tomboy did something particularly wonderful...
...Greeley's groupies also follow his lead in reducing their opponents to "- stereotypes, in making wild and unsupportaWe generalizations, and in charging opposing views with logical inconsistency when their own logic is questionable...
...figure, a sacrament par excellence, a, risen savior bringing grace to all, even her beloved cousin* Father Blackie...
...One might recall that Jesus himself was strongly opposed to the abuse of women in his own time and place, and might well himself have trouble with Shafer's embracing the view that "violent sexual degradation is the contemporary equivalent" of crucifixion...
...Listen to this bit of marital "pillow talk": "'The girl says to the guy that until the sun goes down, he should roam her body like a gazelle or young stag roams the mountain.' 'Dirty book,' she mumbles...
...but why does Stange object to tender men, men of the'future who Boff says have integrated the feminine within themselves...
...This century has seen theological justifications of racism, fascism, homophobia, and of course sexism...
...The brutalization of women in Greeley's stories}*inexorably linked to his emphasis on Divine Ferai: ninity...
...I wonder whether Stange has tested that judgment against the story of the hero of Patience Of a Saint, who is wholly "done to," rather than "doing," and who'suffers *oth physical and emotional violence ia the hero's) passive suffering, and native response to that crisis of the soul that formed the generative power of the fcook...
...For that reading .seems to'me Selective and somewhat awry...
...their own little foxes...
...I did and I didn't...
...This statement is not true...
...Greeley is not...
...before going to bed...
...Similarly, Shafer comfortably infers that a challenge to Greeley's understanding of sexuaftifeBgration and a rtwndon of his tendency toward homophobia could only come front ft "quasi-lesbian" hater of men, intent" upon replacing patriarchy with mother-rule...
...To the Editors: I read Mary Zeiss Stange's article hoping to clarify my own ambiguous' feelings...
...So, I will give my own...
...This death, however, constitutes the death of the lifeless shell of a wippan already murdered by toe church during her novitiate...
...Even you...
...God the Father gave His...
...Having passed through death and rebirth, she becomes a sacrament of redemption, a living conduit of love, grace, and transformation for others, , Cathy is a Christ...
...First, the book highlights Msgr...
...In fact, that pain and that struggle comprise the chief elements of my own'story a story in which I am indeed my own subject...
...Second, this book appropriately places the Bishops' Program within the political context of its day...
...To the Editors: For years Andrew Greeley has insisted that his stories are homilies to help us discover God in our daily lives and especially through our sexual relationships...
...How exactly does this re, late to the Marsdens' absurd remark that in pornography a term I would not use with regard to Greeley's novels women are in* "complete control...
...Rather it absorbed, bathed, and soothed her...
...JACOB NEUSNER Distortions galore Chickasha, Okla...
...While never a victim of physical violence, I can easily identify with, his women characters, with their pain and , their struggle to be "good" women...
...Stange presents us with only two choices: patriarchal sensibility and quasi-lesbian sensibility...
...It has two major strengths...
...In order to smear Greeley she has turned his artistic and religious vision on its head...
...is the schizophrenic patriarchal theology which justified female suffering by on the one hand embracing it as part of die human condition, while on the other romanticizing it as "Christlike...
...Nick Curran (Virgin and Martyr), Mike Casey (Angels of September), Red Kane (Patience of a Saint), Joe Murphy (supporting character in the Time Between the Stars series), and Greeley's paradigmatic pnest, Blackie Ryan, all show'exceptional non-patronizing gentleness...
...Finally, for those, like me, already aware of their pain and already engaged in the struggle, he has provided the warmth of friendship...
...Such a vision can be called patriarchal under only one condii tion: the only literary sensibility which is not patriarchal is one which, because of its hatred for men, utterly rejects as a mistake a creation of1 human-kind,, male and female...
...I' suggest that Greeley has hit a nerve here...
...Daring, the night, she is literally raped, to death...
...However, need I remind this foremost American scholar of Judaica that all meaningful criticism is more or less explicitly rooted in a polemic of some kind...
...Mary Kate, Father Blackie's psychiatrist sister, is Cathy's proverbial "friend in need" (Virgin and Martyr...
...Friend573 a man and a woman, reinthrobbing union of their t preserved and enriched by the seasWve'tenderness of their common life,is the model on which all human relationships must be based" (4 Future to Hope In...
...MARY ZEISS STANGE Correction: In Daniel A. Degnan's "Bound by the Constitution" (Sept...
...In exploring women's suffering (my suffering) from that point of view, he is providing a tremendous service the enlightenment and, instruction of many an insensitive man (and woman...
...Greeley realizes that by subjecting himself to torture and a demeaning death, Christ accepted an archetypaliy feminine role, and that violent sexual degradation, is the contemporary equivalent of being nailed to the cross...
...Focus on heterosexual sacramentality in no way keeps men and women from becoming agents of grace for members of their own sex, a theme Greeley explores in detail in The Friendship Game, and one which appears in many variations throughout his work...
...This sounds like Total Woman...
...Why else would she object to Greeley's comment that "the proper goal of feminism is not that women become more macho but that men become more tender...
...Consider Cathy (Virgin and Martyr) who in a sense has died in the cowse of her imprisonment, torture, and rap*,,her alter ego/ 'buried'' in the Rio Seco <jrypt...
...She creates the illusion of objectivity by admitting the legitimacy of narrative theology and castigating hostile reviewers for ad hominem methods...
...The broader context of Greeley's novels...
...THE editors 575...
...Finally, Eileen snuggles up to Red and quips drowsily "I like it here in Jerusalem" {Patience of a Saint...
...Stange notes (with disapproval), that "such tenderness as Greeley's women characters receive, they almost universally receive from men...
...MARGARET REED Hitting a nerve Chicago, III...
...Nor did the bishops content themselves with generalities in their program...
...LINDA MARAN Beyond recognition Cheyenne, Wyo...
...It is She (and Noele's incomparably tender priest, not luck, as Stange implies) Who heals Noele after the rape...
...That easy identification must come only be' cause, I too am in pain and I too struggle mightily for maturity and goodness...
...Life isn't so simple, and neither is Greeley's message...
...Stange, finds disturbing" stems from the ease with which other women* identify with his characters as well...
...I am gratified by the vigorous discussion generated by my work, because of the reflection such discussion in its turn generates...
...the butterfly emerge* from the- chrysalis...
...He is indeed,' 'a voice crying out in the wilderness...
...Hence, for example, Patricia Schultz readily assumes that a criticism of Greeley's point of view must reflect opposition to tae "male" point of view...
...Unlike Ms...
...Noele, in Lord of the Dance "saves*' her entire family, but most par* ticularly her own mother...
...To suggest, as Greeley explicitly does, that undergding sexual abuse can be for women'a necessary step toward spiritual maturity is to pervert the idea of redemptive suffering...
...In thalancient report the woman is merely a piece of property, while Greeley tocuses on the plight of the victim whoiss^en as suffering a form of crucifixion...
...I also read Father Greeley'-s women...
...But they would never prevail against her" (Lord of the Dance...
...To the Editors: Oddly enough, Mary Zeiss Stance's lengthy diatribe on Andrew Olfeewy's "absolutely unconscion- able" view of women and sexuality Vfitoto Shop of Horrors," July 17] gave me great insight into my own comsort With considering myself a staunch Oreeley fan...
...Greeley no more pi^enta tbfi.bnutfBzar tion of women as paradigmatie 8uui tb* Gospel writers intended to...
...Greeley's almost obsessive treatment of the theme of women's suffering is filling a terrible void...
...One Wonders how many followers of that current debate realize that the hierarchy issued die following statement at the end of World Wat It...
...It is the struggling with ideas and images which distinguishes the living spirit from that dead letter so often championed by the Western tradition as' 'dispassionate inquiry.'' For the record, Patience of a Saint was published too late to be considered in my article...
...Nevertheless, her piece is a poorly disguised,- intellectually dishonest, ideologically driven hatchet job...
...I read Father Greeley's novels, for the fascinating storytelling and in order to make more sense of the church...
...with Her help, "Noele knew the demons from hell could still touch her, perhaps even hurt her...
...This is especially true in the theological arena...
...If this is sacramental theology at all, then at best it is bad sacramental theoldgy...
...Still, since much of me meanhostility suffered by Gredey from what he writes 572 merely from the fact that he writes novels, this kind of serious reading of the work, within the affirmation that "he is certainly right about the appropriateness of the narrative mode to pastoral, as well as theological, activity," Greeley's many-admirers, who derive both intellectual and religious insight from his brilliant mind, can only affirm Stange's fundamental enterprise, even while differing from some of her judgments...
...presenfripw Lord's suffering as a lesson in.sad^an...
...BEV HERRING A polemical purpose . To the Editors: Permit'this admkefHrf Andrew Greeley to register a dissent to Professor Stange's reading of tite work...
...In Lord of the Dance, I didn't recognize any of the wjproen.as someone I might have ever knotro...
...McShane's book is a historical work and deserves to be judged on its merits as such...
...Her brand of feminism seeks either to neuter "Mother Nature" by abolishing sexual differentiation or to replace patriarchy with a matriarchy of women as aggressively competitive as the most stereotypical male...
...Its main defects are three1: enormous inefficiency and waste in the production and distribution of commodities...
...John Ryan's fole in the church's on-going efforts to come to terms with the American political, social, and economic environment...
...Rather, they called for a series of specific reforms such as support for public housing, establishment of a minimum wage, and state provision of social insurance that in retrospect reads like a blueprint for FDR's New Deal of thirteen years later...
...Mary Zeiss Stange attacks this view...
...11), the reference to Ronald Dworkin's article should have been: "Bork the Radical," Aug...
...A lesbian A"" drew...
...Consider one of the most powerful passages in Thy Brother's Wife: "Rarely did the Presence say anything...
...I did because I too am repelled with all the thrust-at-us sex(uality) and see no artistic value in lots of the trite character remarks and overworked narrations...
...Women do not "come alive" in his pages...
...Stange is *nly partially correct when she notes that "Greeley's sacramentality is Strictly heterosexual.'' While all friendships are potentially sacramental, the grace experience is purest and most powerful in heterosexual union within a committed and caring relationship...
...The proper conclusion wquld be that, if Greeley wants men to be more tender, he wants them to be more attractive to women a possibility which Stange seems to find repugnant...
...Stange distorts, perverts, cqrrupts...
...the present system stands in grievr ¦ ous need of considerable modifications and improvement...
...Throughout American Catholic history the hierarchy has often found itself caught between the competing pressures of Vatican policy and American political and social reality...
...Stange, I find it very easy to forgive Greeley what seems to be, in her estimation, his major fault his point of view, his maleness...
...Occasionally, such grace^filled encounters even have strong erotic undercurrents, such as Patrick's love for Kevin {Cardinal Sins), and Annie Reilly's reactions to Maria DonIon, Mary Kate, and her Polish assistant (Angels of September...
...Some of Andrew Greeley's followers are evidently as incapable of squarely facing objective criticism as he himself so notoriously is...
...a story I am creating and telling daily, told from my own point of view...

Vol. 114 • October 1987 • No. 17


 
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